Biography

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From his early days in the Pacific Northwest punk outfit Snakepit, his longtime collaborations with Mark Lanegan, his stint in Dinosaur Jr., to his most recent outing with Caustic Resin, Mike Johnson has cemented himself as venerable player in the field of rock music.

Mike Johnson was born in Grants Pass, Oregon in 1965. After taking the ubiquitous “student loan to University” way out of small-town hell, he joined the Eugene band Snakepit in 1984. Two self-released cassettes, two 45s, and countless shows later the college rockers threw in the decidedly stinky towel in 1989.

In 1990, Johnson moved to Seattle at the behest of Screaming Trees vocalist Mark Lanegan to begin work on Lanegan’s second solo album. Johnson had commuted between Eugene and Seattle the previous year to co-produce, co-write, and play guitar on The Winding Sheet, Lanegan’s maiden solo effort. This effort would prove fruitful to the duo, as it launched a long, multi album collaboration between the two that would last over a decade. In addition to Winding… He would collaborate with Lanegan on Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, Scraps at Midnight, I’ll Take Care of You, and Field Songs, as well as guesting on Here Comes That Weird Chill.

From 1991 to 1998, Mike played bass for Dinosaur Jr. He played with the band for three long players - Where You Been, Without a Sound, and Hand it Over, in addition to a slew of singles and compilations that would have the band’s name.

In 1993 Johnson’s good friend and roommate Chris Takino launched Up Records. Johnson recorded his first solo 45, “100% Off/ Redeemer”, with ex-Snakepit band mate Al Larsen in 1994. Later that year Johnson released his debut full length “Where Am I?” - an orchestral country folk record released on Up.

Two years later, in 1996, Johnson made a deal with the devil for his second release, Year of Mondays on Atlantic Records. In 1998 he returned to Up and recorded I Feel Alright, an album suffused with negativity yet belying a mordant wit.

In 1999 he joined stoner rock heroes Caustic Resin, and handled bass playing duties on three of their releases: Trick Question, the Afterbirth, and Keep On Truckin’.

After the tragic passing of Takino in 2000, Johnson recorded the elegiac What Would You Do in tribute to his friend. The album displayed an added depth to his songwriting, and a surprising, if not overt, reggae influence. The album would also introduce the Evildoers, his regular collaborators that would eventually make up his band. The Evildoers features Brett Netson (Caustic Resin, Built to Spill), Jim Roth (Built to Spill, the Delusions), and Jason Albertini (Duster, Helvetia).

Since 1992, as a solo artist, Johnson has made a name for himself as a musicians musician and songwriter, who now at five solo efforts under his belt, is known for creating some of the most intensely personal and deeply affecting music of the last decade. His fifth and latest release, Gone Out of Your Mind, will surely be no exception to the rule.

Although Johnson’s solo work has adhered to a folk-rock sound since his initial releases, Gone Out of Your Mind brings Johnson full circle, so to speak. With the Evildoers in tow, it does so by re-affirming the Wipers-influenced Oregon rock sound of Snakepit, while continuing his musical evolution. There is a palpable mood of alienation and subdued anger throughout this record, which as Mike puts it “reflects life during the new age of American fascism”. The record is full of contrast, from heady folk rock tunes to the harsh rock numbers, all ensconced by Johnson’s grit and depth as an artist. Case in point-witness the universally themed “If the World Hadn’t Gone Insane” and “Being Here”. In addition to his strength as a songwriter, his interpretations of underground standards are just as mighty, like the re-imagined version of Junior Byles roots classic “Fade Away”.

Edited by shallowdaydream on 13 Jan 2012, 18:00

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